Day Thirty Three: Chashu Rice Bowl (Chashu Don)

12 Aug

Day 33 (which by the way, is extremely delayed due to my laziness) takes us to Japan, one of Christian’s favorite cuisines. When he asked what I was making, and I told him Japanese food, his reponse was “Oh good, that is my favorite”. So the bar was high for me. The food is so clean, but so flavorful – there isn’t much to not like about Japanese cuisine.

While I really wanted to make ramen, I couldn’t do it without the real noodles, and since I can’t eat real noodles, it just wasn’t worth the effort. So, instead I opted for another uncomplicated, traditional dish – donburi, or a rice bowl. A super versatile concept adaptable to any type of meat, fish or vegetables. And yet another bonus is that it is so simple, and it really lets the meat (or whatever topping) shine as the star. Basically, you want your meat to be as flavorful as possible, because there is nothing there to overshadow it or emphasize the flavor. That is a good thing – uncomplicated dishes can really result in some of the best tasting food.

This rice bowl features chashu, a traditional Japanese boiled pork that becomes really tender, but not falling apart – it is sliceable meat, not pull apart meat. It should be made from fatty meats, like the shoulder, belly and even cheeks. The cooking liquid is full of flavor, with soy sauce, ginger, green onions and mirin. I added some white miso for a bit more flavor, but it isn’t necessary at all. I love miso though, and will find a reason to put it in whatever I can now. (This was another new discovery during the cleanse – dressings, soups, marinades, etc.)

After Christian’s first bite, he said “this is f’ing awesome”, so that is good. I thought it was really good too, but did not have the same level of appreciate for it that he did. The pork was tender and had quite a bit of flavor. I think, for me, the end product would have been better if I had reduced the cooking liquid down to a more concentrated and thicker sauce. Seemed like that is what fell flat for me. But the pork was cooked well and tasted great.

The recipe was really easy to make, and definitely could be a weekday thing (it was for me, at least). To go with the chashu, I quickly sauteed some beautiful white turnips and mizuna from the Farmer’s Market, adding a bit of tamari and mirin to finish it off. Delicious!

I ended up doing a lot research on this, since it was a new concept for me. I finally decided to take two recipes and mesh them together – this one and this one.  The latter site, from No Recipes, made me really want to seek out some pork cheeks – it is like the best of pork shoulder and pork belly combined. Sounds like heaven.

Chashu Rice Bowl

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 2″ piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 green onion, green part only
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • About 20 peppercorns
  • 1 cup
  • 1 additional green onion, sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all ingredients except rice. Liquid should almost cover the pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave lid ajar slightly, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, until meat is tender (but not falling apart). Remove and let rest, covered in foil. Meanwhile, boil the sauce for about 10 minutes (longer if you want to try to make it more concentrated). Slice the meat thinly against the grain.

While meat is cooking and/or resting, make 1 cup of what rice (more if you want, less if you want). To serve, dish up the rice and top with pork, a drizzle of sauce and the green onions.

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